The past week my bedside book has been Richard Peck's A season of gifts, a companion book to A long way from Chicago and A year down yonder. I was delighted to have the chance to spend more time with the larger-than-life Grandma Dowdel (who, in my mind's eye, looks just like my dad's mother--a woman of rustic means).
12-year-old Bob Barnhart and his family (his father is a minister assigned to start a Methodist congregation in town, his mother who will direct the church choir, his 14-year-old sister Phyllis who writes a letter to Elvis every week now that is in the army and 6-year-old Ruth Ann with her one-eyed doll companion Grachel (she couldn't decide on Grace or Rachel as the doll's name)) have moved into the second-t0-the-last house in town--the last house looks haunted and deserted. Bob suffers the usual trying-to-fit-in blues, suffering the tortures of being kidnapped by the local boys (many repeating grades for yet another year in the small town school) and being left trussed (and naked) in the outhouse of the house next door where he is found by the ancient Grandma Dowdel. In her not-quite-legal way, Grandma makes a big impression on the entire Barnhart family, indeed on the entire town.
I laughed, I had a tear in my eye, I enjoyed the richness of Richard Peck's use of the language. I live with the hope that another volume about Grandma Dowdel (who is now well into her 90s) will come out soon. Keep your fingers crossed, please.
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